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People On Bikes

2,176 miles in 19 days: Maine to Florida bike ride travel log

Update: Friday, July 1, 2016

In BWCF board member Lisa Portelli’s own words

I am going to try to summarize our Maine to Florida bicycle trip. It’s impossible to capture about 2186 miles of riding in a FB post, and this is only one perspective, but here goes. The map we had stared at for months unfolded before our eyes in ways we least expected. The journey was more intense than I anticipated yet I had the time of my life.

On the first night in Portland Maine, Don ordered a Moxie, a caffeinated and sweet soda not found everywhere but whose name over time would become the word that would define this group of friends. According to Urban Dictionary, having moxie means having enough cleverness, skill, creativity, fortitude and cajoles to solve (or, at least, to get out of) difficult situations. This group has moxie, athletic stamina, leadership, patience and more. It wasn’t easy but I guess the saying goes the best things in life are not easy. It was amazing and the best way to see the world is definitely from the seat of a bicycle.

The trip was this: lilacs, lobster, detours, local ice cream, Amish children, fresh picked strawberries, unique water stops, living history, friendly locals asking questions, dozens of small towns with Main Streets, ferries, friends, wild flowers, local diners, thousands of calories, lighthouses, 13 state signs, rivers, lakes, bridges, fields, hills, 16-17 mph effort level, stone fences, Chinese buffets, selfies, cheap hotels, convenience stores, ever changing farmer’s fields, bike trails, quiet roads and railways. It was America the beautiful up close and personal. Don said, “the whole world is our living room!”

But it was also this: a bike crash for Don that meant a trip to ICU and emotional turmoil for us, (he’s doing well!), long days on the bike ranging from 80-140 miles, 60,000 feet of climbing, a tropical storm that left puddles up to our knees and no way around them but to ride through, unbearable afternoon sun, mechanicals, stressful at-home family health predicaments and the shock of watching a tragedy unfold in our home town Orlando while we ventured on. Moxie. Blood, sweat, tears, frustration, smiles and giggles….the latter two emotions greatly exceeded the first but all were part of it. This was how the adventure was meant to unfold but no one could have predicted it. We rolled with it with lots of consensus building talks and planning and I am proud of us for tackling it together so well.

Yes, I would do it again and I highly recommend it to other bicyclists with a sense of adventure. The route and daily mileage could be shortened. It may seem counter intuitive but I have to suggest that you don’t bring one of us along with you, (even though we will plead to go) because letting it unfold each day and finding our way into the unknown was part of the thrill, at least for me.
I am feeling blessed beyond words and thankful to God for so much but especially grateful for the support of my family who tolerated their crazy wife and Mothers’ dream. XOXO I missed you all more than I can say and there’s no place like home.

Update: Monday, June 27, 2016


Maine to Florida bike ride group return home to a new normal in Orlando – a community united but grieving

Lisa Portelli was in a foreign place the other day, behind the wheel of her car instead of on a bike seat.

A board member of Bike/Walk Central Florida, Portelli recently completed a nearly 2,000-mile cycling trip, riding from Portland, Maine to St. Augustine with seven fellow bikers. They rode from 80 to 140 miles a day.

The 19-day journey, which ended June 16, was a physical and emotional roller coaster, marked by the adrenaline and endorphine highs of riding through arduous terrain and weather, as well as the lows of leaving one rider behind in a New Jersey hospital to learning by smart phones of the tragic nightclub shooting in Orlando during the early morning hours of June 12.

There were times, Portelli said, the group wanted to quit, especially when fellow biker Don Gramling was seriously injured after he catapulted over his handlebars and hit the ground. He apparently skidded on a patch of gravel while going downhill and lost control of his bike. Less than a week after the trip began, he was out, suffering a concussion, seven cracked ribs and a broken pelvis and hip.

Gramling is recovering in New Jersey and, Portelli said, should return soon to Florida with family to a rehabilitation center near his home in Jacksonville. Donations to Gramling’s recovery can be made at: https://www.generosity.com/…/helping-don-gramling…/x/6114496.

Just as devastating to Portelli and her group was the news of the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, where 49 people were murdered by a man wielding a semi-automatic rifle and handgun. He was killed by police. Another 50 Pulse patrons were injured, many severely.

All the riders quickly called home, checking on friends and family, then stopped often to read updates on their phones. They pedaled on rather than stopping because they really had little choice. They only had one driver in a small car carrying all their belongings — other than their bikes.

“We had to keep going,” Portelli said. “Stopping really wasn’t an option.”

Though they were saddened by the accident and shooting, Portelli said, they pulled together with “positive group dynamics” that included giving each person the metaphorical space and time to try and accept what had happened.

“You have to have a lot of respect for each other’s differences,” she said.

Despite the personal difficulties — as well as climbing 7,000 feet in one day and riding through a tropical storm — she described the trek as “incredible.”

Would she do it again?

“Absolutely, it was the ride of my life,” she said.

Biking, she said, is the best way to see the country.

“You smell it,” she said. “You talk to the people. You just embrace it all. There’s no better way.”

Early during the trip, she said, they rode a more leisurely pace, stopping often when they saw something interesting and taking pictures. They would leave about 6 to 6:30 a.m. and ride until 5 p.m., often going to bed by 9 p.m.

When they got to South Carolina and Georgia, however, they picked up the pace because of the unrelenting heat, which seemed worse with the hot air radiating from the blacktop.

In addition to Gramling and Portelli, the group also included Ruth and Keith Sherrick, Marion Kusters, MaryLu Williams, Ed Bennett and John Ward Smith. Rob Link drove the car and rode much of the way, too.

Portelli, who figures she spent about $2,400 on the trip, said planning and patience are key to riding long distances.

In case you are wondering, she already is planning two week-long cycling trips for 2017.

Update: Monday, June 6, 2016

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What do President George H. W. Bush, baby chicks, Amish country, fresh strawberries, Colonial Williamsburg, funny road signs, a Memorial Day color guard in Winsted, Connecticut, and the Pennsylvania/New Jersey state line all have in common? Not a whole lot – except these are just a few of the memorial moments a small group of Central Florida bicyclists have shared about their Maine to Florida bike ride going on right now.

If you haven’t already been following the this group since their ride kicked off on May 27. Start doing it. Now. The Main to Florida bike ride crew – which includes BWCF board member Lisa Portelli – continues to post Facebook updates along the way.

And this adventurous bunch just hit the halfway mark in Virginia of their more than 2,100-trek down the East coast. Their final destination today is Suffolk, Va.

They expect to ride an average of 114 miles daily before they reach Orlando.

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Even with all of the fun moments we’ve seen posted on social media – the group continues to persevere through some hardships as well.  They’ve encountered all types of terrain – up and down hills, long vistas and straightaways.  Rain – lots of it. The increasingly sweltering, summer heat. Broken wheel spokes and, unfortunately, a bike crash that sidelined one of the group’s riders back in New Jersey.

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Riding downhill, Don Gramling apparently hit a patch of gravel, lost control, flew over the top of his handlebars. He suffered a severe concussion, broken pelvis and ribs. He is in stable condition after being admitted to an intensive care unit.

“He is progressing well and is stable, but in for a long recovery/rehab,” fellow rider Lisa Portelli texted.

She said the most trying moment of the trip so far has been leaving their injured comrade in the hospital, where his sister is tending to his needs.

Don is facing significant medical bills from the crash.  Donations can be made to support his recovery here.


Update: Friday June 3, 2016

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The intrepid Maine to Florida bike riders are close to finishing their first week on the road, having pedaled more than 700 miles up and down hills, in hot weather and rain.

“Amazing, tough group,” Bike/Walk Central Florida board member Lisa Portelli texted Thursday night.

The pack of eight Florida riders started their journey Saturday in Portland and were headed into Baltimore Friday.

They gave ridden on country roads, semi highways and bike paths, through rural and urban settings. One of the highlights was a stop in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania. They chatted with youngsters and learned a bit about the religion.

“I was literally sitting in the grass with them playing with their puppies,” wrote Portelli, who added “I may never come in. It’s beautiful out here.”

The cyclists intend to ride 2,176 miles in 19 days, or roughly 114 miles per day. They are about a third of the way home.

Update: Tuesday, May 31, 2016


BWCF Lisa Portelli (pictured center) is riding with a group of her friends from Maine to Florida. The long-distance trek (2,176 miles in 19 days) by bike kicked off on Saturday, May 28.

We all enjoy a nice little bike ride. You wouldn’t be looking at this website otherwise, right?

Bike/Walk Central Florida board member Lisa Portelli is taking the notion of a Sunday outing to the park or around the block to a whole different level.

Long an avid cyclist, Portelli and eight of her friends kicked off a long-distance ride from Portland, Maine all the way back home to Florida over Memorial Day weekend. That’s 2,176 miles in 19 days, or roughly 114 miles per day.

“I’m over the top excited and nervous,” Portelli said by phone Friday, shortly before boarding her flight to Maine.

An avid cyclist who routinely rides to work, Portelli has been building toward this outing for years, routinely cranking out 100-mile outings with her friends during the weekends. Last year, she was part of a group that rode 745 miles, from Key West to Daytona to Fort Myers, within 86 hours.

That may seem a tad extreme to many, but Portelli said, “I can’t think of anything more fun than being on my bike for two and a half weeks.”

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You can follow Lisa and co.’s Maine-to-Florida bike journey on Facebook (click on the map to see the group’s updates) or check out BWCF’s twitter feed.

The route she and the group are following is along back roads — ones considered bike friendly — and will take them through 15 states and an astounding array of terrain and vistas. It was put together by Adventure Cycling.

Portelli and her mates will be relying on Rob Link of Orlando to drive the so-called SAG truck, which will carry all their belongings from stop to stop. Link likely will ride much of route in reverse, going back out to meet the group after driving first to their daily destination.

Others the group are: Ruth and Keith Sherrick, Marion Kusters, MaryLu Williams, Ed Bennett, John Ward Smith and Don Gramling.

Portelli, program director at Winter Park Health Foundation, also has aspirations of one day riding across the entire country.

“This stuff never gets old. I love being on a bike,” she said.

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